Atlanta Cheating Scandal

Atlanta Judge Reduces Cheating Teachers Sentences: ‘I’m Not Comfortable With It’

Three teachers sentenced in one of the biggest cheating scandals in the country are getting a slight reprieve. The presiding judge in their case reduced their prison terms from seven years to just three, explaining “I want to modify the sentence so I can live with it.”

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter was fire and brimstone when sentencing the educators, calling their crime the “sickest thing that’s ever happened to this town.”

After some time to think about it, the judge decided he was too harsh. According to CNN, he said in a resentencing hearing on Thursday, “I’m not comfortable with it.”

“When a judge goes home and he keeps thinking over and over that something’s wrong, something is usually wrong.”

The Washington Post reports he amended the sentences of the three most harshly judged educators. He reduced their prison terms from seven years to three, their probation periods from 13 years to seven, and their fines from $25,000 to $10,000. The three will still have to serve 2,000 hours of community service.

All three of the defendants — Michael Pitts, Tamara Cotman, and Sharon Davis-Williams — were school administrators who participated in a widespread scheme to artificially raise test scores at struggling schools. The group of cheating educators would erase wrong answers on national test forms and fill in the correct ones.

Although the cheating scandal affected a large number of children, who will now receive remedial school services, many suspected the judge was sentencing out of anger after the educators refused to accept plea deals and admit guilt.

Benjamin Davis, the defense lawyer for Tamara Cotman, explained, “I had never seen a judge conduct himself in that way. What was going on with Judge Baxter?”

During the original April 14 hearing, Baxter told the attorney representing Davis-Williams, “Everybody knew cheating was going on and your client promoted it.”

“These stories are incredible. These kids can’t read.”

The attorney and her client say they are happy the judge had time to reflect.

Judge Baxter also indicated on Thursday that he’s approaching his retirement, leaving him little time to make things right.

“I’m going to put myself out to pasture in the not-too-distant future and I want to be out in the pasture without any regrets.”

He did not reduce any of the lighter one or two-year sentences. In total, 11 educators were convicted. The judge did, however, say that while the defendants were waiting for the appeals process, they should start their community service terms, indicating that he might lighten their sentences further if they do.

In the end, the judge appeared to be relieved he was finally done with the Atlanta cheating scandal ending the Thursday hearing by saying, “I’m ready to move on. So, anyway, adios.”

[Image Credit: Getty Images]